Start of Summer: Cucurbit flourishes

November 21st, 2011
by Jo Law

We recently acquired some children’s furniture for Hollis. Their incorporation into the living room spurred a cascading re-organisation scheme that developed into a belated ‘Spring’ clean which then spread to the garden. It was just as well – as the vegetable beds were badly in need of an overhaul in preparation for the summer crop, while the materials for composting piled up, much to the chickens’ delight, and the neighours’ morning glory vines and nasturtium creepers advanced into the North-west corner.

When we set up the vegetable garden, The Diggers Club was our main source of seeds and plants. Pouring over their fruit and vegetable catelogues, their exaltation of every plant easily tempts you to grow everything: fruit you may eat occassionally, vegtables you don’t really eat, and things you didn’t even know were edible. Barbara Campbell once described these growing gudies as ‘hort-porn’. Still, there is no denying that eating the food you grow yourself is immensely satisfying.

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food prompted my habit of reading the fine print food labelling on everythng, and Hollis’ venture into the ‘solid’ food realm only consolidated this practice. The question is no longer solely where the food comes from, how it is grown/ harvested/ made/ stored, but the scrutiny continues all the way along the supply chain. It’s hard to avoid being interested in the workers’ strike at the Baiada’s factory (Australia’s largest poultry meat processor, supplier to free-range chickens such as Lilydale), food labelling legislations (‘Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil’  bill 2009, for example), animal welfare (what is free-range?, for instance), irrigation, supermarkets’ price war on milk and now bread. There’s a lot of think about when it comes to food, afterall, there are few things more personal as Brillat-Savarin famously wrote, ‘Tell me what you eat: I will tell you what you are.’

After an intense day of labour, we were rewarded with a small basketful of garlic, a few leeks, a bunch of silverbeet, a bowl of assorted new potatoes, and a handful of mulberries – a modest harvest. We celebrated with satay sticks cooked on the barbecue. This ‘dry fire’ food was perfectly countered by the ‘cold and cool‘ cucumber salad.

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